Why is marketing tough for B2B companies?

One of the most common questions I hear from CEOs of small and mid-size B2B companies is, Marketing hasn’t been a priority for us because of the resources required—so where do we even start?

Their question reveals the challenges of B2B marketing. Many CEOs understand that marketing is important for their businesses, but they haven’t been able to tackle it effectively. They know they should be doing it better, and they want to do it better, but they don’t know how. That’s understandable, because there are some significant challenges for B2B companies when it comes to marketing.

The main challenge is a resource gap. For B2B companies, marketing is rarely a core competence. In small and mid-size B2B companies, marketing is typically a small function that doesn’t warrant its own executive or team. So the Head of Marketing is often someone who has another job the CEO, the COO, or the VP of Business Development.

The problem is that these executives have other priorities. If there is a problem in the plant, the COO isn’t going to stop to write a press release. If there is a new sales opportunity, the VP of Sales isn’t going to film a video case study. Because their other responsibilities are prioritized, marketing activities are put on hold whenever the executive is pulled away to another area, which happens frequently.

Because of the nature of marketing, this leads to poor results. Marketing is a business function that demands consistency. It’s like dating a slow and steady approach is far more effective 20 Lisa Shepherd than a courtship that blows hot and cold unpredictably. Unfortunately, many B2B companies deal with marketing in a reactive way.

They ignore it until there is an issue: a trade show that’s a few weeks away and hasn’t been planned for, or an article that needs to be submitted to an industry journal the next morning. This leads to a huge amount of wasted marketing investment, not to mention stress, frustration, and poor representation of the company.

The other gap is one of expertise. Very few non-marketing executives have B2B marketing expertise. Heck, relatively few marketers have B2B marketing expertise. While there are many training grounds for B2C marketing, there are few for B2B marketing.

A junior marketer within a B2B company might know about customers, buying behaviour, and industry trends, but they rarely know how to put a strategic B2B marketing plan together or how to manage the multiple moving parts it entails. There are many elements to a comprehensive marketing plan from graphic design, to search engine optimization, to event planning, and beyond. It’s challenging and rare for one person to be skilled at everything.

B2B companies are often technical in nature, and sometimes struggle to communicate the value of their products and services clearly and effectively. They are founded by someone who has technical knowledge of the service or product that the company provides.

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